NEW YORK—Downtown Brooklyn is heading for new heights, with plans to add to the existing cultural, business, and educational communities.
New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) revealed a collaborative economic plan for the future of Downtown Brooklyn at the new BAM building on Thursday.
DiNapoli expressed a personal interest in revitalizing downtown Brooklyn. “I’m reflecting on my great aunt Mary, she lived on Alabama Avenue, I think she took the J train,” he said, recalling his own childhood experiences downtown.
With $4 billion worth of investments in downtown Brooklyn in the past five years, the partnership has set the area to become a center for the arts, education, and a booming community.
“I think if she saw this community today she would move out of Alabama Avenue and come to one of the new apartments,” DiNapoli joked.
Upcoming economic developments include the Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre mixed-use project; the 18,000-seat Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets, and the first new department store in Fulton Mall in decades.
The economic plan will also cater to a demography that is shifting toward a growing pool of 57,000 students, from the 11 universities and colleges in the area.
DiNapoli’s report said that downtown Brooklyn now has 15,000 shoppers daily, 100,000 office workers, and over 40 arts and cultural organizations.
“The key is, how do we go from being a hot stock, high-tech Silicon Valley, flash in the pan to a blue chip thing,” said Alan Fishmen, chairman of the Downtown Partnership. “We’ve got to make it solid, sustainable, and widen the exposure that we have.”
The plan also outlines lacking areas, such as pedestrian connectivity and open space, but some neighborhood organizations see larger deficiencies in the plan that they feel have not been addressed.
“Over 100 small businesses, including mine, have been displaced from downtown Brooklyn since the 2004 rezoning … most without even relocation assistance,” said Maisha Morales, a member of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), a Brooklyn-based multiracial organization.
The organization feels that the partnership’s plan did not address the large low-income community’s concerns, such as the need to develop more affordable housing. Some residents say the current developments have widened the gap between the rich and the poor.
FUREE wants to implement plans to increase not only employment, but also training in areas such as construction, management, and retail.
“There are some good things that could come out of this plan, but it really is not a balanced development model,” said Lucas Shapiro, senior organizer of FUREE.
Development and Jobs
The economic plan is creating jobs, “many of which will go to those lower moderate income,” said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president. “I don’t believe they have been displaced, they are getting a rich mix of activities and programs.”
“It wouldn’t be Brooklyn without [FUREE], everyone has the right to advocate,” he said.
To increase jobs and business development, the economic plan will reactivate commercialized spaces such as that in Fulton Mall, and adjacent retail corridors. H&M, Express, Shake Shack, and Hotel Indigo are coming to the area soon.
“[Furee’s] goals are our goals. … We may disagree how to get there, but we are all on the same page,” he said.The partnership is building on from the established BAM performing arts center, adding a new building. The newly formed downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance is comprised of 30 cultural organizations, who collectively employ over 1,200 workers and attract 2.3 million viewers annually.
According to the report, downtown Brooklyn has led the city in job growth from 2003 to the last available data in 2010. The average private sector salary was nearly one-third higher than the rest of Brooklyn. The area’s median household income rose by 40 percent since 2005, to $71,790 in 2010.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has high hopes that the emerging Tech Triangle, which includes Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard can become “the new Silicon Valley.”
“We are a livable town for executives,” DiNapoli said. “They can have their offices downtown … and be close to the cultural attractions of the Manhattan borough.”
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